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A fort revisited

Situated on a huge rock, Bhongir Fort is a shutterbug's paradise, finds out SYEDA FARIDA

WHAT DO I do on a weekend? Play a few overs of Sunday cricket after boogieing on Saturday. Last weekend, I decide to skip the ritual, and take a road less travelled — to a lesser-known fort in Bhongir. I am more a nature lover than a `fort' person'. But appreciating history never harms anyone.

So, here I am driving out at 6 a.m., skirting the mid-morning traffic. The landscape changes as I cross Uppal — more water bodies and paddy fields. And I see my first scarecrow in years. Soon, I am at Bhongir, Bhongiri in popular parlance. Amidst clouds, situated on an egg shaped rock, I see my destination. The fort is visible from almost any point, and appears like a guarding angel for the town below.

I plan my next move — find a local person who can be of more help than my skimpy tourism booklet. I bump into this seedy-looking guy who promises to scout a guide for me while I grab a bite.

Nothing tastes better than crisp hot vadas and filter coffee after a long drive. I soon find there is a Kamat here as well. And also that Bhongir is famous for tamalapakulu (betel leaves) that travel to other States, available in the `Ganj' street. As also, clay pottery and earthenware. You can buy ramjan, (storage jars), poie (stoves) and kiddy banks for a song at the Kumhar Wada near the fort. The khadi market close by is a steal, with good quality handloom sold at Rs. 14 to Rs.18 per metre.

Back, Ravinder, a local, after a lot of haggling, agrees to show me the fort, spread over 40 acres, for Rs. 100. Equipped with a pen, diary and a bottle of mineral water, I follow him. It is a steep climb; forts usually are, I tell myself as I blessed my fitness instructor for those extra reps.

En route, my guide informs, many films and serials were shot here including Sardar Paparayudu. The backdrop is indeed a shutterbug's paradise — moats with lotus blooms, and those on the summit, filled with dark choppy water. Tall grass sways with the breeze as we climb up; the highest point is 500 feet high! Railings for the last flight of steps are a solace — a fall from that height can be a nightmare. The thought that comes to mind on reaching the fort is vini, vidi, vicci. Or even Where Eagles Dare.

Built by western Chalukya king Tribhuvanamalla Vikramaditya, the fort is situated on a strategic point. I could imagine the soldiers sitting behind the six-feet-wide citadel, looking for any enemy army build-up. "Wonder how many years went into the construction," says my guide, and I agree looking at the deft architecture — teakbeams supporting walls with exquisite carvings, floral motifs, and mehrabs. But, the Salman loves Swetha graffiti on the walls is definitely a sore thumb.

I then climb down a flight of stairs, into a stable this time to find a priceless treasure, a 12th Century rolu, used for pounding. I look around for secret passages — there is one that connects to Golconda, says my guide.

It is nearing noon and I am famished. My search takes me to Viviera — a Punjabi dhaba et al combined. But I prefer Green Lands, the ethnic village adjacent to it. The place offers outdoor hut-shaped sit-outs with multi-cuisine menu.

After a hectic and early day, I am tired. I head for civilisation, mine.

* * *

Distance: About 51 km from Hyderabad.

How to get there: Can be reached by road (APSRTC buses from Uppal) and rail

(Kakatiya, Warangal, Gautami and other passenger and

express trains).

Where to stay: Green Lands, Viviera (Rs. 450- Rs. 550 per day).

What to carry: Mineral water, camera and a few sandwiches. You can find many good eateries and medical stores around.

What to wear: Comfortable cottons and sports shoes. Heels are a no-no.

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